WaPo fact checker: Let's split eight abortion-hysteria Pinocchios between AOC, Rick Scott

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Can we get a few more for anyone reporting that Chuck Schumer’s maximalist Senate bill only “codifies Roe“? Maybe Glenn Kessler’s still working on that, since the field is wide open for Pinocchio recipients on that claim. Still, the Washington Post fact checker does his part to bring America back together by shredding two absurd claims from each side of the abortion debate this week.

Let’s start with the Republicans and the NRSC under Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), whose talking points on the outcome of a decision to overturn Roe were already out of date in Louisiana … and other places:

FORCEFULLY REFUTE DEMOCRAT LIES REGARDING GOP POSITIONS ON ABORTION AND WOMEN’S HEALTH CARE Joe Biden and the Democrats have and will continue to spread lies about where Republicans stand on abortion and women’s health care. The facts:

  •  Republicans DO NOT want to take away contraception.
  • Republicans DO NOT want to take away mammograms or other health care provided specifically to women.
  • Republicans DO NOT want to throw doctors and women in jail. Mothers should be held harmless under the law.

Uh … they were doing pretty well until that last bullet point. Some Republicans want to throw doctors in jail, and arguably women too, for aborting children. Allahpundit wrote about the faceplant political strategy being deployed in Louisiana by Republicans that would target both women and their doctors for homicide charges, which is practically designed to snatch defeat from the jaws of political victory. Kessler notes efforts in a couple more places, too:

We can start with Scott himself. Along with 44 other Republican senators, he is co-sponsor of a bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, that makes it a criminal offense to perform an abortion if the development of the fetus is at 20 weeks or more. A violator is subject to criminal penalties — a fine, a prison term of up to five years, or both.

Hmm, who would perform an abortion other than a doctor?

In Scott’s home state of Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill last month that bans virtually all abortions after a gestational age of 15 weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. “If a physician violates the ban, they would be guilty of a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine,” said the Tallahassee Democrat.

In Oklahoma, the Republican-dominated legislature passed — and the Republican governor signed — a bill that made abortion a felony and penalized doctors who perform abortions. A doctor convicted of violating the law could face up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. “The penalties are for the doctor, not for the woman,” said GOP state Rep. Jim Olsen, who sponsored the bill.

You get the gist. Kessler offers a few more examples, but Scott should have known better than to make this claim when it contradicts his own legislation. And besides that, what’s the rush? It’s better in this midterm cycle to wait, especially since the victory seems to be at hand, and see what the political mood will support post-Dobbs. To wit: all that would really be necessary would be to impose ruinous fines on providers who conduct abortions to dry up those markets. That’s the Texas strategy, for instance.

Speaking of which, Kessler evens the score by ripping Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her own disinformation on Texas’ law. That came last week, before the Supreme Court leak, but is part of the general hair-pulling of the moment anyway:

Kessler gives this four Pinocchios and describes AOC’s rant as “embarrassingly wrong”:

We checked the law, which has a near-total ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and empowers citizens to sue abortion providers and people who assist with abortions. It says: “Notwithstanding any other law, a civil action under this section may not be brought by a person who impregnated the abortion patient through an act of rape, sexual assault, incest, or any other act prohibited by Sections 22.011, 22.021, or 25.02, Penal Code.” Those sections deal with sexual assaultaggravated sexual assault (such as rape) and prohibited sexual conduct (such as incest).

On top of that, the law does not allow for abortion patients to be sued. Instead, suits can be brought against any person who “performs or induces an abortion” or who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.”

Exactly. It’s aimed at providers, not the patients. As Kessler points out, rapists and incestuous impregnators are explicitly excluded from standing to bring such lawsuits. Furthermore, if the Dobbs draft holds up, this Texas law will likely get mooted anyway. The lawsuit-standing dodge was designed as a workaround for Roe and Casey that essentially outsourced legal bans on abortion. With Roe and Casey struck down, Texas can now pass laws that directly impose such fines through regulatory action rather than novel redefinitions of standing. And they probably will as soon as the Dobbs decision becomes official.

And this brings us to what we can expect in the post-Dobbs political environment. Right now we’re still seeing parties fall back onto their maximalist, performative strategies that relate almost entirely to fundraising rather than policymaking. In the absence of Roe/Casey, though, voters will demand the latter and right quick. The natural process of representative politics will feature a lot of bombast from the hardliners on both sides of this issue, but the resulting statutory response will eventually reflect where the majority of Americans land on this issue, simply because voters will punish those who don’t follow their will on this at some point. Both parties will learn this lesson the hard way, but they will eventually learn it.

That means most if not all states will allow for some access to abortion, likely only within the first trimester (Roe, essentially), and with parental involvement in any decisions regarding minor girls. A few states will be outliers toward both poles, but even then, there won’t be much political will to jail doctors that perform abortions. Fine them into oblivion? You bet.

The most important point, though, is that this public policy will be responsive to voters for the first time in fifty years. Politicians who make proposals on abortion that fall outside of the mainstream will no longer get a free pass for their demagoguery … which brings us back to Chuck Schumer again. Let’s hope the next set of Pinocchios will focus on those misreporting Schumer’s radical bill as simply a status quo codification.